During a water shortage, water-saving strategies are widely communicated by municipalities to encourage minimal domestic use.
When the campaign’s water-saving techniques are not fully embraced by communities, the blame game begins.
Leaders, citizen groups and local organisations turn on each other, causing division and conflict.
There is nothing normal about a water crisis, however.
People may not necessarily deal with a crisis situation in the same way — we need to focus on community perceptions of the problem, not their supposed values.
Where there’s a will
People pay attention to their surroundings and will adapt their behaviour accordingly when deemed necessary.
Motivations — and views on what constitutes saving water — may differ, but noone wants to live in a country without access to water; therefore, assuming people are being wantonly wasteful is unhelpful and does nothing to address the problem.
South Africans are dependent on guidance from local and national government, so the strength and effectiveness of that stewardship is what underpins a successful watersaving methodology, rather than pointing fingers at Joe Citizen.
Supply and demand
With the SAs ’ political reform in 1994, water legislation was one of the main issues to be addressed.
This was not because there was an issue with its value or availability, but rather its accessibility.
For years, access to piped, potable water was associated with wealth and dignity, set aside for a select few.
The need for adjustments to these laws was crucial to building a society where everyone had the equal right to water.
Municipalities became the main water authorities and providers in urban areas.
People became accustomed to having access to piped, potable water in their houses.
Water users understood it was a paid-for service.
Users therefore kept water use within the limits of their financial capacity.
During water shortages, restrictions were set in place and adhered to until adequate supply was re-established.
As urban populations increased, more pressure was placed on the municipal water provision capacity.
The effects of climate change started to manifest, with droughts, floods and other natural disasters becoming more frequent.
This called for a new approach to the management of water on various levels, with much scientific research going into this endeavour.
Many studies encourage the adoption of sustainable water management practices that look at all angles — from source to tap.
Yet, few of these practices have been adopted by communities or incorporated permanently into their lifestyles.
One cannot help but wonder why?